God instituted marriage between male and female because it isn’t good for mankind to be alone (Gen. 2:18, 22-24; 1 Cor. 7:2). God designed marriage to last until one of the spouses dies (Mt. 19:6; Rom. 7:1-4). In fact, God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). At the same time, God knew that people would divorce. By the first century, divorce was a very common practice and many people (if not most) would have either been divorced or they would have been married to someone who was divorced.
When it comes to the teachings of the New Testament, there are varying degrees as to the specific interpretations of Jesus and Paul (Mt. 5:31-32; 19:1-10; Mk. 10:1-12; Lk. 16:18; Rom. 7:1-4; 1 Cor. 7:1-40; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). However, I want to emphasize the overriding principles and how to properly apply them.
- Marriage is between male and female (Geb. 2:22-24; 1 Cor. 7:2).
- God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16).
- There are lawful reasons for divorce (See here and here).
- Those who violate God’s laws on marriage and divorce are guilty of adultery (Mt. 19:9; Lk. 16:18).
- Those who violate God’s laws are to repent.
- Relationships can be obtained in sin, yet continued in righteousness.
- Repentance doesn’t require further divorce for those in subsequent marriages after a divorce.
- Those who are currently married should not seek a divorce. Such would be a further sin.
- Those who are currently unmarried should not be forbidden marriage.
The main point I emphasize when I teach on this topic is that we should always seek to maintain our marital relationships and that repentance doesn’t demand further divorce for those in subsequent marriages after divorce. The new marriage isn’t a “continuous state of adultery.” The majority of scholarship in Christendom is practically unanimous in the conclusion that repentance doesn’t demand further divorce in the case of marriages after a divorce.
Interestingly enough, John Piper doesn’t even believe that repentance would demand a further divorce in those cases. The reason why this is interesting is because John Piper doesn’t believe in any exceptions for divorce. Yet, if someone did divorce and remarry he would tell them to remain in their current marriage. So, while there may be an almost seemingly infinite amount of interpretations on the marital teachings found in the New Testament, we need to realize the points of agreement, especially as it pertains to repentance and what it does and doesn’t demand.
While there is much more that could be said, we need to always remember God’s overriding principles. We need to study in light of God’s grace, mercy, and redemption. We also need to study within both the biblical and historical context of the marital teachings. For in-depth study, I recommend the following books and study references:
“Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context” by Instone-Brewer. – This is a book that is very in-depth and spends a lot of time in the historical context.
“Divorce and Remarriage: A Redemptive Study” by: Rubel Shelly. – This is a very practical book and deals with more overriding principles and counsel.
“Jesus on Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed” by William A. Heth. – This is a free PDF book that you can read. It is very short, but very scholarly. William Heth was one of the leading proponents of divorce for no reason at all, yet he changed his view after further study.
“Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views” – This is a book written by four men with four different views. It examines four different views of marriage and divorce by proponents of the views. It is a good practical study and will familiarize you with the most popular differing views and their arguments.
– Kevin Pendergrass
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